Tom Lasorda, a plate of salad in one hand, a fork in the other, walked into an almost-empty Dodger clubhouse Tuesday night and spotted Fernando Valenzuela, still sitting in a deck chair in front of his cubicle.
“Go home, Fernando,” Lasorda ordered. “Forget about it.”
Lasorda’s pep talk ended with half of his salad on the clubhouse carpet, his control no better than that displayed by Valenzuela, who wild-pitched a run home in the first inning and walked home two more in a four-run second.
Two innings later, Valenzuela made his earliest exit of the season, and Rick Sutcliffe and the Chicago Cubs had won the battle of dueling Cy Young Award winners, 8-3, before a sellout crowd of 48,187 in Dodger Stadium.
Lasorda’s fears notwithstanding, Valenzuela had no intention of spending the night in Chavez Ravine, even though his record dropped to 3-4.
“I’ll go home,” he said with a tight smile. “It’s my eighth start. There’s a lot of games coming.”
For Sutcliffe, this win was a long time coming. His only regular-season loss in 1984, when he went 16-1 and won the Cy Young Award, came here. His last win in Dodger Stadium came when he was still a Dodger, in 1981.
Sutcliffe said he was too pumped up upon his return last season, and fought the same feeling Tuesday, when the Dodgers scored two runs in the first but left six men on in the middle innings.
“I tried to downplay everything here, but when you pull up on that street (Elysian Park) things start coming back,” Sutcliffe said.
“I have a lot of memories here. The first couple of years there were a lot of good ones, the next couple not so good.”
Sutcliffe’s stuff Tuesday was anything but memorable, yet he still managed to go the distance with a six-hitter, running his record to 5-3.
“I had great stuff again in the bullpen,” Sutcliffe said, “but when I got on the mound I was laying everything in there. My fastball was mediocre, my slider was flat and my off-speed stuff kept me in there.”
The Dodgers’ last chance expired in the sixth, when rookie Mariano Duncan, who had struck out three times previously, grounded out with two runners on.
The Cubs, the highest-scoring team in the league last season, actually came into the game with a lower team batting average (.223) than the Dodgers (.233).
Through five games of this trip, the Cubs were batting .165 and had scored just 11 runs, six in a win against the Padres.
“We’re going to score runs,” said ex-Dodger Ron Cey, who started the night at .183 and had just three hits in his last 18 at-bats. “And our pitching is greatly improved.
“Once we start rolling, the better side of things will still be in front of us.”
They let the good times roll in the second, scoring four runs with the help of two bases-loaded walks by Valenzuela, an error, and two hits that traveled a combined distance of 90 feet.
With one out and Jody Davis aboard on a single, Leon Durham topped a ball slowly down the first-base line that Valenzuela overran when it took a weird turn, Durham getting credit for an infield hit. Valenzuela might have escaped unharmed if Pedro Guerrero had turned a double play on Larry Bowa’s grounder to third, but Guerrero’s off-balance throw gave second baseman Steve Sax no chance to make the relay.
Sutcliffe, who came into the game batting .222, an average equal to or better than four of the Cub regulars, lined Valenzuela’s first pitch through the box for a base hit, scoring Davis. Bob Dernier then dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line, loading the bases.
Valenzuela went to a full count on Ryne Sandberg, then walked him, bringing in one run, and Duncan booted Gary Matthews’ broken-bat roller to allow another. Valenzuela then issued another bases-loaded walk to Keith Moreland, and it was 5-2.
Valenzuela departed after the fourth, when the Cubs scored their sixth run on a walk to Sutcliffe and Sandberg’s end-of-the-bat double to right.
Sutcliffe gave up two runs in the first on doubles by Ken Landreaux and Mike Marshall and Guerrero’s sacrifice fly. In the fourth, two walks and Terry Whitfield’s pinch single made it 6-3, with Moreland’s diving catch of Sax’s liner to right ending the Dodger threat.
Whitfield has seven hits in 11 at-bats as a pinch-hitter, with five RBIs.
Tuesday was the seventh anniversary of Dave Kingman’s three-home-run game at Dodger Stadium, which inspired Manager Tom Lasorda’s infamous “What did you think of Kingman’s performance?” diatribe. . . . Pinch-hitter Jay Johnstone, as expected, remained on the disabled list, with a bad hip. “He still can’t hit,” trainer Bill Buhler said. “What the heck good is he?” The Dodgers waited until gametime before announcing that shortstop Dave Anderson will remain on the disabled list, at least temporarily. Anderson went on the DL with a bad back but “irritated his left side” Buhler said, while making a play in the hole during practice last week. He was examined again Tuesday by Dr. Ben Ling. . . . Pitcher Bob Welch, scheduled to come off the 21-day disabled list next Monday, threw for about 25 minutes Tuesday and Buhler said he was pleased with his effort. . . . Lasorda, watching Ron Cey playing pepper with his son, Danny, said: “Penguin, I’ll sign him right now.” Answered Cey: “For five years, with a no-trade.” . . . Larry Bowa started at short for the Cubs instead of rookie Shawon Dunston, who was benched for the second straight game. “Just normal rookie problems,” Cey said of Dunston. “He has no experience, so he has nothing to draw on. He has to go out and do everything himself.” After the game, the Cubs sent down Dunston and recalled outfielder Brian Dayett.